I bumped into a friend of mine last weekend. At the time, I wasn’t going anywhere in particular. You know those days. You don’t really feel like hanging out at home, but you don’t really have any major things you want to accomplish. The weather is nice. You have the day off. Most of the important stuff that you usually do on the weekends, laundry, straighten up your desk, all that stuff is done. So you pick a few destinations that you’d like to explore. Bookstore, mall, coffee shop. You take your time because you just want to enjoy a lazy day of wandering around. Content to float around with no real pressing need to hit all your semi important maybe get to destinations. Which is exactly what I was doing when I bumped into my friend. And which is exactly I immediately agreed to go and grab lunch, even though I’d already eaten, and it was four o clock in the afternoon.
He stated telling me about this interesting problem he was having. It seems there was a new manager at his job. She had been brought in from a different division. He worked for a manufacturing company that made large parts that were then sold to various automobile manufacturers around the world. They were largely non-moving, machined metal parts, that were very versatile, so they could be sold to a number of different companies, both domestically and internationally.
The problem he was having was that his new manager had no real experience in this particular area. She had worked in the head office her whole career, in the accounting department, and really didn’t know anything about the companies operations other than what she saw described on a balance sheet. Because of recent economic problems, she was brought in to see if there were any areas where they could save money, so the company could still remain profitable. My friends company sold to a diverse enough group of carmakers than the collapse of one, two, or even three major U.S. manufacturers wouldn’t necessarily cause their business any harm. So she was brought in just to make sure that they could stay in the black, and nobody would have to loser their job.
The problem began, when she came in, thinking she was helping out, which she was from a larger standpoint. The overall health of the company is important. But the workers, all the guys that reported to my friend, didn’t see it that way. They saw her as somebody coming in to tell them what they were doing wrong. One thing they didn’t like was they she was what they called a “pencil pusher,” or a “desk jockey,” who couldn’t begin to understand what it was like machining parts on sophisticated machines, all day. Two, she was a woman. And this kind of job had always been a traditional, male dominated job. So straight away they was a large feeling of enmity between them, before they even got a chance to meet.
So my friend had to figure out how to explain to them that criticism isn’t always bad. Sometimes criticism is to help you, even to make your life easier in the long run. He wanted to tell them that those that can accept criticism with an open mind will really benefit in the long run. Many successful people have realized early in their career that criticism does much more good than harm, if taken the right way. You can take other peoples criticism of you, even if it’s mean spirited, and extract from it useful information that you can use to improve yourself. Most people can’t see this, and see criticism only as a personal attack. Few people don’t realize that even if you do receive criticism as a personal attack, you can always “erase the emotion and save the data” to learn something. It’s always important to realize that in almost every interaction, you can learn something constructive.
So what my friend decided to do was to speak with her, and suggest that she come to them with questions, and then let them answer them. She will describe how she is representing corporate headquarters in a quest to save ALL their jobs, and she needs their help in figuring out to do that. Kind of an “us against them” mentality. To figure out a way to work together, without any criticism, and let them not only explain to her how they do their jobs, but to elicit their opinions on how the could do it better, and cheaper.
I thought it was a pretty good plan, and I’m curious to see how this turns out.